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Playstation Home, Three Years Later June 17, 2013

Posted by Maniac in Reviews.
1 comment so far

When I was notified by the Playstation 3’s News Bar that they were offering some unique content for BEYOND: Two Souls in Playstation Home, I decided that now was the time to brush off the cobwebs from that particular section of my Playstation 3’s Hard Drive and log back into Playstation Home for the first time in over three years.

Playstation Home has a very interesting history. First announced shortly around the time of the PS3’s launch, Playstation Home is a free Massively Multiplayer world akin to Second Life. You can access Home and explore all of the event spaces being offered, visit movie theaters to watch exclusive content with others, purchase clothes or items for your avatar, and create and decorate your own personal space. To join in, all you need is a Playstation 3 and Playstation Network account. I was actually one of the original beta testers for the service, so I know just how much the service has changed since its early days, and I was curious to see just how the service looked all these years later, and if all my content was still there.

Upon launching Home, I noticed immediately I had to patch it. I was concerned that years later I was looking for a patch with a download size in the gigs but actually I don’t think I had to download more than 50MB in new content off the bat. Once I was patched the program booted up for the first time. It notified me that since I was using an older version of the program at launch, it had to take all the saved content from my Playstation 3’s HD and move them to the cloud so it could keep a more accurate record of my unlocked content across multiple consoles. Since I have PS3s in multiple rooms (because lets face it, it’s still the best Blu-Ray Player currently on the market) I immediately quit the program in fear that the Playstation Home content it was going to save to the cloud was not actually the content I had accumulated three years ago, and I went to my original PS3 and began the patching process on that one instead.

The first issue struck me immediately, and that was that I needed to create a new Home avatar. I had taken great pains to create a virtual duplicate of myself way back in the day, and I was worried that if my Home avatar was no longer on file that most of the rest of my purchased content or unlockable items was gone as well.

Once I had created my new avatar it immediately loaded Sony’s Virtual E3 2013 booth, which coincided with their special Home promotion for E3. While I hadn’t been an attendee at E3 this year, it had reminded me a lot of their booth back in 2011, and looked like it could have been a pretty decent virtual replica. You could check out different booths on you own, view screenshots from each of the featured games, take your picture with the statues, or complete quests for exclusive items and downloads. Let me tell you, you could not have picked a more perfect place to start a fresh player on their first visit to Home, or a long-time player who was visiting again after many years.

After exploring the booth for a few minutes, I noticed a quest board near the big screen was calling to me. When I accessed the board it had a long list of quests for me to do while at the event, with each one involving a different featured booth in the space. Each quest, if completed, promised to give me access to unique Home items like clothing for my avatar, as well as download codes in the Playstation Store for things like exclusive dynamic PS3 themes. To help me on my quest, I unlocked a special interactive Playstation Vita for my avatar, which I could screw around with all I wanted while in the E3 space. In the early beta test for Playstation Home, you had access to a fully interactive Playstation Portable. It was the perfect tool in Home, as you could customize it to your liking, and use it to decorate your virtual space, kind of like how I remembered the main character doing in one of my favorite books I read when I was a kid. Well, the PSP function may be gone now, but seeing an interactive Vita reminded me of those good times.

Within no time I completed the first quest and unlocked the first new content for my avatar in years. I decided to open up my trophy case and take a closer look at what I had unlocked and was shocked to discover that while my avatar hadn’t been carried over from the previous version of Home, all of my avatar’s unlocked and purchased content had indeed survived. I dug a little deeper to see if my Home spaces were still intact, and they were, which was fantastic. I changed the default shirt for my avatar to something from my old collection, put some behind the head headphones on him because that was the style for headphones back in the day, and continued with my E3 quest.

Completing all the quests at this year’s virtual E3 space was no quick task. I must’ve devoted at least three hours in one night to making sure I visited each and every booth, watched all the provided videos, and unlocked all the quests. I have to say, I haven’t had this much fun exploring and unlocking new content in a game in quite a while. Late into the night, I had completed all of the individual quests at the E3 booth, and decided to complete the final quest the following day.

After I rested, I decided to go back into Home and after finishing the final quest, see just how much the service had changed. I immediately noticed that none of my original Home downloads were still in the PS3s HD, or if they were, they were no longer compatible. That meant any new area that I explored had to be redownloaded. While this may have been because some of the content had been changed so radically, my home spaces hadn’t changed at all, which left me puzzled as to why I had to redownload the content. With the final quest item unlocked in the virtual E3 booth, I set out on a journey to visit as many of the different virtual spaces the system offered to unlock more new content for my avatar, and to have a great time doing it.

The updated interface made exploring Home a breeze. Push the Start button on your controller, and it pulls up a menu where you can access pretty much anything Home offered. I noticed immediately that some of the spaces I loved from back in the day were no longer in place, like the inFAMOUS space, and others had been changed completely like the Uncharted space. Say what you will but I missed Sully’s Bar. However, there were a ton of new spaces I had never seen before that I could access now. In fact, far more spaces were up than I could ever have imagined seeing. I have to admit that there were so many I just couldn’t visit them all. That was hardly something I could say back during the initial beta release.

Some great spaces that come to mind include the Konami Lounge, which looked a lot like an upscale penthouse. You could explore the space for Konami points, although I have no idea what I could do with them. There were signs up all over the place for some of Konami’s games from a few years ago, which kind of made me think that Konami hadn’t updated the space’s appearance in quite a while. However, there were still a lot of virtual people hanging out in it, especially on the interactive DDR dance floor.

Another great space I remembered was the Cantina Bar, which sadly didn’t offer anything so far as unlockable content, but was a pretty decent replica of the Cantina in the original Star Wars, complete with droid scanner and the classic tunes. The video screen didn’t work anymore, and I think the fact that Lucasarts has been shut down might have something to do with that.

Finally, the last space I want to talk about was the x7 club, which is Sony’s virtual all-exclusive environment. Since I was an early beta tester I assumed I may have been able to get in, but sadly, access to the club is restricted to Playstation Plus members or users who have downloaded specific virtual items including a diamond/gold suit or a penthouse home space. After the Playstation hack from a few years ago, I will never put my credit card back into the Sony Network, so I wasn’t going to buy anything I needed to get myself in, but it sure looked fun if you were willing to spend the money. x7 promises that people who get in can unlock special free content and have access to stuff that other users can’t, which reminded me of Sony’s Gamer Advisory Panel back in the day.

I’ve also checked out a wide range of other spaces including the new Hub, Theater, Bowling Alley, and other content-specific spaces. Home is host to tons of virtual games, video, and unlockables. Its more content than I ever could have imagined. After exploring Home on my original PS3, I decided to see if my content had finally been moved across to my other PS3, and sure enough it had. Sony had the right mind to move Home data to the cloud, but it was a move I wish they had made day one. While my original avatar appearance was lost, my new avatar has inherited all of the content I achieved from back in the day making him somewhat akin to a little brother.

Can’t wait to see what new things Sony has in store for Playstation Home. I just know I’ll be visiting their virtual E3 booth next year!

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